Automated Inventory Syncing by Integrating With Your Dropship Supplier
Last updated on May 17th, 2022 at 04:52 pm
If your store or marketplace account only contains a few products, it’s possible to keep up with your supplier’s inventory manually. However, when you have an expanded and growing product catalog, you’ll need a flexible, reliable, and automated inventory system to keep up.
Plus, if you’re working with a big distributor with an extensive catalog of fast-moving products, inventory automation might be table stakes to dropship with them.
Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of automated inventory syncing and how to scale your dropshipping business further after automating the ordering process.
Benefits of Syncing Inventory With Your Dropship Supplier
Automated inventory systems are vital to sellers’ success, especially if you sell on multiple channels. Integrating with your supplier and enabling automatic inventory syncing helps you make more intelligent, more effective business decisions.
Maximize Your Potential to Scale
The ability to scale your dropship business relies heavily on the systems you implement.
Manually entering product inventory data from spreadsheets and other documents and risking the sale of items that are out of stock doesn’t cut it. Having your employees check to see how much inventory you have on hand doesn’t either.
Spending your “spare time” analyzing data from multiple sources isn’t beneficial to your business—or your sanity. Moreover, as you begin to carry and sell more products, these stale processes and systems will fail.
If you want your business to succeed, you must take the time to move to an automated inventory system that helps you gather information more efficiently.
Through inventory feed file automation, you can more easily detect and import new products from your supplier. It’s also easier to update your product descriptions, prices, and available quantities on your sales channel.
Minimize the Risk of Human Error
Imagine copying hundreds of line items from a spreadsheet into your product catalog. There’s vast potential for human error that can lead to over or underselling of products, incorrect product descriptions, and unhappy customers.
Often, more than one person will need to access inventory data at any given time. If changes are unsaved or you limit access, you boost the likelihood of error and lower the potential of accurate product reporting.
When you rely on static spreadsheets, you can’t see your supplier’s inventory in real-time. As a result, you miss sales opportunities due to backorders, and customers who purchase an out-of-stock item will encounter several issues.
Not only will you risk losing your customer, but your team will also have to spend time reconciling the issue and potentially give out heavy discounts to retain the frustrated customer. And chances are, other customers were also affected.
When manually adjusting and reconciling inventory from multiple locations, you can experience serious issues. For example, tracking inventory manually doesn’t sync and update your inventory levels, so it’s impossible to adjust that data in real-time properly.
Feed File Inventory Syncing
To begin syncing inventory with your supplier, the first step is identifying how your supplier provides product inventory quantities or stock status.
Suppliers who have been dropshipping for a while will typically have an “inventory feed” or “product data feed.”
A product data feed is a spreadsheet or file with a text-based list of product data and attributes. Fields typically contained in a product feed file are product title, price, description, image, and product identifier (such as UPC).
Ideally, this file is hosted on a cloud platform and can be summited via:
- Download from a URL
- Upload over URL
- FTP/SFTP downloads
- FTP/SFTP uploads
Suppose your supplier refers to their feed as an inventory feed. In that case, the information they share will probably be limited to the products’ SKU number and the inventory quantity or stock status. You may get lucky and find the cost, MSRP, or other pricing data, but this is typically limited information.
Complete product data feeds tend to have more robust data, such as the title, product type or categories, short description, attributes, and more.
Having access to this inventory information in one place helps you efficiently manage your products and list them to your channels quickly.
Most beginners will manually upload or download product feeds in a standard file format (such as CSV). This process works best for new retailers or retailers with small product catalogs that don’t foresee many ongoing changes.
Yes, this process is relatively simple—even for those without much technical knowledge. However, as product information or availability changes, you have to upload or download new files each time manually.
This requires significant time and attention to maintain correct product data unique to each distribution channel. You may even need a team or additional resources to manage this updating your catalog this way.
When your catalog or number of distribution channels begin to increase, you’ll need an automated feed to continue to operate efficiently.
Automated Inventory Feed File Syncing
If your supplier is new to dropshipping, they may not have a process in place for providing an inventory feed with reliable product quantities or stock status.
It’s likely imperative to have accurate product quantities, so ask your supplier which platform or system they use to maintain the products’ accurate inventory and stock status in their warehouse. In most cases, they’ll be using a warehouse management system (WMS). Also, ask if they’re syncing inventory to other systems, such as an ecommerce platform.
Take the information they give you to determine whether they use a system that your dropship platform can integrate with. This system might be a WMS, ecommerce store, or something else).
If your dropship automation software can integrate with this system, you can save the time it takes for your supplier to figure out how to create a live, public inventory feed. However, if your supplier doesn’t use a popular system to manage their inventory and you need to explore other options, a custom solution may be the best bet.
Effectively Manage Inventory With Automated Inventory Syncing
Product information is no good if it can’t be accessed quickly by cross-functional teams and essential decision-makers.
The days of tracking inventory data in an Excel spreadsheet are gone. Instead, integrating with your supplier to create an accessible, real-time database of product information will make managing your business much easier.
Perhaps more importantly, it’s critical to adopt technology that integrates well. So, when investing in new solutions, always prioritize systems that play well together.
If you’re interested in automating every aspect of your dropship business, check out our guide to the 7 Stages of Dropship Automation for more.
And if you’re unsure where to begin, talk with one of our experts today!